Home > Fireborn (Souls of Fire #1)(15)

Fireborn (Souls of Fire #1)(15)
Author: Keri Arthur

“Meaning you couldn’t get close to him, or that Radcliffe really can spot a cop a mile away, however delicious the bait.”

He grimaced. “The latter. Rochelle tried several nights ago. He totally ignored her.”

“So, despite the fact that you’ve warned me away from the investigation, you’re not above using me if it suits a purpose.”

“Totally.” His cool blue eyes bored into mine. “In the end, the only thing that really matters is the investigation. Everything else—everyone else—is collateral damage.”

Charming. I walked over to the bar and poured myself a large glass of red wine. “We were planning to drug Radcliffe via a drink. Is that still an option, or have you something better planned?”

“We have plans. And given Radcliffe will probably have his goons do a sweep of this room before anything happens, Adam and I will be waiting next door.”

“Which doesn’t exactly tell me if you still want me to administer the drug, or whether Adam is going to do his vampire-telepathic thing and render them all senseless.”

He half smiled. Again, it was a fleeting thing, but it nevertheless stirred an ache deep in the heart of me. “He will do his telepathic thing and implant appropriate memories as necessary, both before and after we have the information we need from him.”

I nodded. “You realize that he’s going to have to include memories of Radcliffe messing around with me.”

“Yes.” He studied me for a moment, his expression closing over. “How were you going to get around that problem? I didn’t think you were telepathic.”

“I’m not. Jackson and I were going to make a little noise once Jones was completely out of it.” I shrugged, my gaze on Sam’s, watching for a reaction, any reaction. There was nothing. Why the hell I was expecting one, I have no idea. I really, really, needed to get past this. “He would have come to in the morning with a sore head and no memory of the night’s events, but his guards would have had plenty of action to report.”

“There’s one flaw in your plan—Miller would never have gotten past the guards’ pre-seduction search of the room.”

I flicked a hand toward the sofa positioned near the minibar. “If you’d care to tilt that up, you’ll see it’s actually been stripped of all its stuffing and springs, providing enough room for a man to hide.” And given Radcliffe’s guards were both human, they shouldn’t have been able to sense or scent Jackson. Whether Radcliffe would have was another matter entirely.

Sam grunted, then touched his ear lightly. For the first time, I noticed he was wearing an earpiece. “Okay,” he said after a moment. “Radcliffe is on his way up. Adam and I will be next door.”

“Just make sure you don’t leave it to the last moment to capture their minds and render them harmless,” I said. “I do not want Radcliffe’s grubby paws anywhere near me.”

He snorted softly. “Should have thought of that before you started all this.”

My gaze narrowed. “Fine. Just remember, I literally can play with fire, so if you’d like a crispy suspect, just take your time.”

“A crispy suspect is not going to help either of us,” he retorted. “So don’t make empty threats.”

My sudden smile held little humor. “Oh, trust me, my threats are rarely empty.”

He eyed me for a moment, then shrugged and made for the door. “We’ll wait until the guards check before we move. Adam can only cope with a couple of minds at a time.”

I leaned a hip against the minibar and watched him leave. Two minutes later, there was a knock at the door. My mouth went suddenly dry. I might have once been a cop, but I’d never been undercover. This was a whole new level of danger to me, and as much as I hated to admit it, it was both scary and exhilarating.

I took a sip of wine, then walked across to the door. “Who is it?”

“Marcus Radcliffe.” His voice was low and rough with excitement.

I shivered in distaste, but forced a smile and opened the door. “Well, hello there,” I said, in what I hoped was a suitably sultry voice.

His gaze swept me up and down, and his expression became predatory. “Do I get to know your name, mysterious lady?”

“Oh, I don’t think so.” My gaze went past him. “And I’m afraid this is a party for two, not four.”

He smiled. It was all teeth and falseness. “Of course not. However, I hope you don’t mind if they come in and do a security check of the place. I’m afraid a man of my wealth does have to be careful.”

He placed a heavy emphasis on “wealth,” and I raised my glass to hide my smile. He might have been trying to impress me, but over the many centuries I’d been alive, I’d probably lost more money than he could ever hope to have. Rory and I were not the greatest money managers in the world, but we always had enough squirreled away to live comfortably each life span.

I stepped back and opened the door wider. “Please, be my guest.”

The two men came in. I watched them search for a moment, then said, “Would you like a drink?”

“That red wine you’re drinking looks good.”

I walked across to the minibar. He followed me a little too closely, his nearness burning across my skin like an unpleasant rash.

I poured him a glass and then topped off my own, all the while aware of just how closely he watched my movements. He really didn’t trust anyone. Drugging him, as Jackson and I had planned, would have been difficult.

I turned around and offered him the glass. He smiled and took mine instead. “One can never be too careful,” he murmured. He ran his tongue across the lipstick that smudged the rim, then licked his lips. “Raspberry. Nice.”

My gaze narrowed slightly. He could taste the flavor of my lipstick from a smudge on the glass? Maybe he was a rat—a wererat. Just because all the ones I’d seen over the years had been lowlifes who tended to infest the bottom rungs of the criminal ladder didn’t mean they all did.

I lightly clicked my glass against his. “To tasting more than just raspberry.”

Hunger flared deep in his beady depths. I shivered again and hoped like hell he took it for desire rather than distaste.

The two men came out of the bedroom. “All clear, boss,” the beefier of the two said. “No other people, no bugs.”

Radcliffe nodded. “Then please wait outside.”

They retreated. The door closed behind them with an ominous click. Radcliffe stepped forward and placed his glass on the cabinet beside me. “Now, let’s—”

I neatly sidestepped his grab and gave him a smile. “There’s no pleasure in rushing, Marcus. Let’s sit on the sofa and get to know each other a little more intimately.” I gave him a sultry smile. “Before we actually do get intimate.”

I cast a hopeful glance at the wall that divided this room from the one Sam was in, although I wasn’t sure why, given they couldn’t see me and wouldn’t know I was more than ready for this charade to be over.

But, as Sam had said, I’d made this bed, and now I had to lie in it. Although if it came to that, I sure as hell wouldn’t. I might want to solve the mystery of Mark’s death, but I certainly wasn’t willing to bed a rat to do so. If things got too heavy, I’d start a freaking fire and have the hotel evacuated.

I sat on the sofa and patted the spot beside me. As he sat, his leg brushed mine. His closeness made my stomach turn, but I resisted the urge to move away. “So, tell me a little about yourself.”

He shrugged. “I own several secondhand businesses.”

“They obviously do well,” I said. “That’s an Armani suit, isn’t it?”

He raised a hand and lightly touched my neck. I once again resisted the impulse to pull away and took another drink of wine.

“A lady who knows her suits,” he murmured, his gaze becoming distracted as his fingers slipped down my throat and came to rest on my pulse point. It was hammering—hopefully he’d take it as excitement rather than disgust.

“Of course. The suit makes the man.” I paused, then asked, “And is the man married?”

“Of course not.” It was smoothly said, but his gaze flickered briefly from mine.

His fingers were on the move again, slipping down toward my breast. I held myself still, even though the flight urge was becoming stronger and stronger.

God, what the hell were Sam and Adam doing?

Just as his fat little fingers were about to splay over my breast, he froze. A heartbeat later, the door opened. Sam and a tall, thin man with gray eyes and blondish hair walked in. The vampire Adam, presumably.

I scrambled clear of both the sofa and Radcliffe, then swung around to face the two men. “You took your damn time.”

Sam shrugged. “Caution is always better than carelessness.”

He glanced at Adam. A look passed between them, and unease swirled through me. Something was going on. Something that meant bad news for me.

Sam walked toward me. I watched him approach, my wariness increasing and my heart racing with increasing speed. Something was wrong. Something was very wrong.

“I’m sorry, Red, but you can’t stay here.”

“Why the hell not?” My throat was dry and my stomach was beginning to churn more thoroughly. “This is our room, not yours.”

“That’s true, but this is our investigation. You and Miller were warned not to interfere.”

Alarm ran through me. I stepped away from him. Fire flickered across my fingertips, little sparks ready to explode at the slightest notice. “What the hell are you intending to do, Sam?”

“Catch you,” he said.

As if his words were a trigger, my head began to spin and my knees buckled. He caught me one-handed, retrieving the wineglass with the other.

The wine, I thought. He’d drugged the wine. “Bastard.”

“Totally,” he agreed. “But it’s not like you didn’t already know that.”

The room began to fade in and out of focus. It took me a few moments to realize we were moving, and by the time I did, we’d stopped again.

Cool hands touched my forehead, and an odd sort of buzzing ran around my brain. Vampire Adam was attempting to access my mind. Good luck with that, I thought, and wasn’t entirely sure whether I said it out loud or not.

Then the touch was gone, the room was gone, and all that I was left with was darkness.

• • •

Waking was hell.

There was a madman armed with a vice intent on squashing the hell out of my head, and my stomach seemed determined to lodge itself somewhere in my throat.

I groaned and rolled over onto my back. My bare back.

I was na**d. In bed.

The thought had me lurching upright, but the movement was too sudden and my stomach rebelled.

“Whoa,” a familiar voice said. “Aim for this.”

A bucket appeared under my nose, and I promptly lost everything I’d previously eaten that day into it. When there was nothing left, it was whisked away, and I lay back down on the bed, flinging an arm over my eyes and groaning lightly.

After a moment, footsteps approached. “Where the hell are we?”

“Still at the Crown.” Jackson’s voice was grim. “Just in the room next to ours.”

“Did they drug you, too?”

“Yeah. It was in the wine, apparently.”

Bastards. “Did they also try to erase your thoughts?”

He laughed softly. “They certainly tried, but the mind of a Fae isn’t as easily influenced as a human’s, and mine less so than most.”

And a phoenix couldn’t be influenced at all. We were spirit, a totally different life-form from human, vampire, shifter, or were. I scrubbed the back of my hand across my eyes, wondering whether I had enough energy to go find my bag and grab some aspirin out of it.

“I’m guessing they put us into bed together?” I asked, wondering who’d undressed me. And why it even mattered.

“Yeah.” The bed dipped as he sat down next to me.

“Here, take this.”

I opened my eyes. He was holding out a glass of water and two white pills. Aspirin. “God, I think I love you.”

He laughed softly. “I’m a Fae. We don’t do love, just plain old lust.”

I downed the painkillers, swishing some of the water around to take away the lingering bitterness. “I know, but you’d be quite safe from me emotionally even if you did.”

“Good.” He plucked the glass free from my hand. “But I just wanted to make sure we both understand where we stand. Hate for either of us to want what they couldn’t have.”

“What I want is sex. But not,” I added hastily, as a lusty gleam appeared in his eyes, “right at this particular moment.”

He laughed and rose. I noted in amusement that he was more than half-ready for action. I resisted the temptation and dragged myself into a sitting position. “I don’t suppose you gleaned any information from them before you were knocked out?”

He shook his head as he dumped the glass back in the en suite. “Those two were clams. What about you?”

I grimaced. “Not really. The drug took effect before they began questioning Radcliffe.” I hesitated, remembering my brief conversation with him. “Is he married?”

Jackson plopped down next to me and stretched his long legs out beside mine. “Not that I know of. Why?”

“Because when I asked him, he said no, but his body language said yes.”

“Why would he lie about something like that?”

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